Before the Thanksgiving holiday there was an incident at Fargo South High School in which a young man who was wearing his pants like an idiot was confronted by a law enforcement officer assigned to the school. The kid refused to cooperate with the officer, and a physical altercation ensued which ended with the kid’s arret.
Now the kid’s mom is crying foul. You can watch the video of the scuffle at WDAY.
I’ve got several reactions.
First, the Fargo cops say there’s more to the situation than what we see in the video. That’s fair, but it is yet another example of why cops need to have body cameras. We have the technology, and it’s cost effective. The footage would be invaluable in situations like this.
Second, in the video Fargo Police Chief David Todd says that the student “got up against the officer chest to chest,” but when I watch it the opposite seems true. It seems to me like the officer chest bumped the kid. In fact, it appears to me like the officer went out of his way to do it and escalated the situation.
Which brings me to my third point: Did a dress code violation really necessitate law enforcement intervention? Did the situation escalate in part because the kid was being confronted for a non-criminal act – wearing his pants like an idiot – by a cop? A cop who could probably have just let the kid walk off and addressed the matter with school administrators, resulting in detention or a suspension or something like that.
Many people support a law enforcement presence in our schools because of issues like school shootings, despite the fact that your average American kid is about as likely to be struck by lightning as they are to be involved in a school shooting. But I worry that putting law enforcement officers in schools escalates ordinary school infractions – like wearing your pants to low – into something addressed by a cop.
If we’ve got cops enforcing the dress code in our schools, does that maybe illustrate the fact that we don’t really need the cops there to begin with?
There’s a saying in the public policy about getting more crime when you put more cops on the street. That’s because cops are cops, and their goal is to make arrests. Is that really what we need in the halls of our schools?
I’m not excusing what this kid did – if he were my kid I won’t be on the nightly news complaining so much as I’d be at home kicking his ass – but it seems like there’s enough blame to go around here.